Christie’s Will Become the First Major Auction House to Use Blockchain in a Sale

The sale of Barney A. Ebsworth's collection of American modernism will be backed by the technology.

A man holds his hand up while bidding on a work of art. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Christie’s is teaming up with blockchain-secured art registry service Artory for its upcoming sale of the Barney A. Ebsworth collection of American modernism. The house is set to become the first major auctioneer to apply the innovative technology.

The blockchain company bills itself as the world’s most secure art-centric database, storing “highly trusted, vetted data about artworks,” and “significant events in the lifecycle of artworks.”

According to Artory founder and CEO Nanne Dekking, blockchain technology can bolster buyer confidence in an uncertain and opaque market. As a former high-ranking auction house staffer, including stints as vice chairman and worldwide head of private sales at Sotheby’s, New York, Dekking says he understands the concerns of wealthy auction clients.

“Today’s buyers are more skeptical and risk-averse,” he told artnet News. “They want to buy with absolute confidence. Artory was created to be a partner for the art marketplace in addressing these challenges.”

Ahead of the sale, potential buyers can log on to the service to view a complete transaction history of the works in the auction before bidding. On the other hand, the company says that collectors who register their artworks with Artory have a greater chance of selling their work without compromising their identity, as information on owners isn’t stored on the database.

Meanwhile, Christie’s made it clear that they view the partnership as an experiment, emphasizing their desire to test their clients’ receptiveness to the nascent technology.

“Our pilot collaboration with Artory… reflects growing interest within our industry to explore the benefits of secure digital registry via blockchain technology,” Christie’s chief information officer Richard Entrup told artnet News. “The entrepreneurial spirit of the Ebsworth family and their embrace of leading-edge technology makes Christie’s November sale of the Ebsworth Collection an ideal platform for our clients to pilot this technology for themselves.”

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